Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Quarter of a Century

You guys. It was 25 years ago that I began my college life. Yep. BYU, 1989. That’s when it all started for me. That seems like a lifetime ago. No cell phones. No Internet. No moveable type. No combustible engines. The earth’s crust still cooling.

But really, it was the end of an era. The end of the 1980s. And the beginning of the 1990s. It was a time to be alive in your teens, my friend. It was a simpler time. Milli Vanilli were still a year away from being exposed, and Bobby Brown hadn’t yet killed Whitney Houston. Sure, it wasn't all glorious. I mean, this was the same time as Richard Marx's Right Here Waiting. (Seriously. It was as if the dude stopped by BYU and interviewed freshmen men and women in love to see how they felt about departing LDS missionaries.) Also, I may or may not have left on my LDS mission with a pair of Hammer Pants. (You can't touch this, indeed.)


What was popular in 1989/1990? Well, it was 25 years ago. And while I had been a pretty decent journal keeper in high school, and on my mission…that freshman year at BYU was not a time of record keeping for me. So, my memory may not be 100% accurate.

I believe I owned a Ferrari, wore Armani suits exclusively, and aced all of my classes. Yep, that sounds about right.

Here I am on my way to my first college class.  

Oh, wait. I’m getting some flashbacks now…

From a pop-culture perspective, I kicked off my freshman year with the B-52s’ Love Shack and finished it with Sinead O’Connor’s Emperor’s New Clothes. Began with Tim Burton’s Batman and the historical biopic Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and wrapped it up with Tom Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October. Started with the first few episodes of The Simpsons and ended with the first few episodes of Seinfeld.

That freshman year was truly one of the most formidable years of my life. Even now, twenty-five years later, there are moments that feel as clear as if they’d just happened. And decisions I made that still affect me. And people I met who I still love, dearly.

Back in the late 1990s, Katie and I used to get asked to do youth firesides on "The Top 15 Things You Should Know Going Into College." We haven’t done it in years, so I don’t know how much of it is still applicable. But here is what used to top that list:

1. Don’t schedule any classes (that you want to pass) before 9:00 a.m.
2. Your wardrobe will increase 10 fold, due to roommates and neighbors. This also goes for worldly possessions – computer, cds, hair products, etc.
3. You will make life-long friendships – get to know as many people as you can.
4. You will willingly go on dates the night before a final or the night before a paper is due.
5. A date overrides hanging out with your roommates or friends.
6. Be careful dating newly-returned missionaries. They only want one thing – somebody to listen to their mission stories.
7. If you were smart in high school, so what?
8. You can know everything and fail a test; or you can know nothing and ace a test.
9. Most of your education will be obtained outside the classroom.
10. Your parents will begin to seem much smarter.
11. Every clock on campus has a different time.
12. You will have countless opportunities to serve other people.
13. Don’t neglect your testimony.
14. You will not watch the news nor read the newspaper – you will be totally out of touch with the “real world.” (I think social media has mitigated this. But I could be wrong.)
15. If you wear slacks or a skirt, everyone will ask why you are “all dressed up.”
Bonus Advice:
16. College is for experience – take some fun classes that have nothing to do with your major.

I so very thoroughly loved my freshman year of college. As I mentioned, some memories are still so clear…

I didn’t have a car my freshman year, and I walked almost everywhere. I’ve always thought BYU’s campus was beautiful. I loved the feeling that I knew every foot of it. I loved walking everywhere. I loved being outside. Except when it was so, so cold. I had come to Provo, Utah from Molokai, Hawaii. I’m not sure I ever acclimated. I lived in the dorms at Deseret Towers, and I can remember one night, walking back from campus to the dorms – with a date – and we both suddenly realized we were about 13 seconds from freezing to death. We ran into Heritage Halls – where neither of us lived – just to warm up for a minute before heading the rest of the way to Deseret Towers. (If you knew how close these buildings were to each other, you would be inclined to make fun of us. But. You. Weren’t. There. It was a near-death experience if I ever had one.)

My first college football game. I’m admittedly not a huge sports enthusiast, but I loved going to BYU football games. The student energy, the crisp fall air, the excitement of the game. And this was the year of Ty Detmer.

I would often borrow a car from my friend, Brian. He was a very generous individual. The first time I ever drove in the snow was in his car. It was late, so thankfully there wasn’t much traffic. I came up on a stoplight, I applied the breaks, and I sailed right on through the intersection. I never told Brian about that.

Even with not owning my own car, I remember becoming familiar with all the local haunts in Provo and Orem. But anything north or south of there might as well have been on the moon. Except the exit to Temple Square, in Salt Lake City. I somehow knew how to get there. Anyway, I thought Provo was the coolest town.

There were two dance clubs in Provo that we would go to. The Palace and The Ivy Tower. The Palace was pretty tame, but The Ivy Tower – the place we always seemed to end up at – gave me the creeps sumpin’ fierce. I couldn’t tell you why, precisely, but I was unnerved by it. Why couldn’t we all just attend dances in the partially-lit Wilkinson Center Ballroom?

The Ivy Tower. It was more foreboding at night. I promise. 

I went to the Varsity Theater all the time. I remember seeing The Princess Bride and The Little Mermaid on several occasions. They would also show U2’s Rattle & Hum, as a midnight movie, and there would be a huge line for that.

I remember that sleep sort of happened whenever it happened. I loved taking naps my freshman year. And I loved staying up super late. I didn’t love getting up early, so much.

I hiked the Y, of course. Took dates to the Utah State Hospital at Halloween (what was wrong with us?!). Ditched my Psychology class every Friday afternoon and went to Movies 8 with my friend, Jim. (Didn’t you ditch classes and go to the movies with my friend, Jim? You should have.)

Something else Jim and I always did. We would ride the elevator up to the 7th floor of Q-Hall like this - holding ourselves up above the floor by stretching our arms and legs out to bolster ourselves against the elevator walls. Because. 

I can't tell you why my pal, Justin, is wearing a Heineken t-shirt (except that he was just always fancy), but I can confirm that we are in his dorm room, singing/rapping to the Beastie Boys. 

Me and my best roommate, Bob. No matter what filters I played with in iPhoto, I could not hide those acid-washed jeans.
And that's a powerful statement. 

And I of course participated in the campus-mandated practice of "creative dating." This included going "Disco Bowling" (it's a thing) and also being the recipient of ask-out-candygrams.

I'm the one in the blue - with white shoes! Ah, the things you can find at D.I. 

Seriously, is there no hiding acid-washed jeans? 

Also, I am embarrassed (now) to say that my friends and I also engaged in the endearing game known as “Safety.” No board, no dice, no cards. Just a fist and a strong stomach. The rules to Safety were as follows: If you were ever to “pass gas,” you were to loudly declare “Safety!” before somebody hit you. If you said “Safety” before somebody hit you, you were indeed “safe,” as it were. Meaning that nobody was allowed to hit you at that point. If you let one rip, and then somebody hit you before you said “Safety” then it was fair game – everybody playing the game could hit you over and over until you a) died, or b) touched a doorknob. Once you touched a doorknob people had to stop hitting you. (If you died, people were allowed to continue beating you, because technically you did not reach a doorknob. I didn’t make up the rules to Safety, folks, I just played as fairly as the next guy.) I remember one time standing in the middle of campus and watching one of my friends, across a crowded square, running for his life, and another friend running behind him at the same break-neck speed, punching him in the back, between the shoulders, over and over. And I thought to myself, “Welp. He should have said ‘Safety.’”

Finally, on April 7, I remember walking up to the Provo Temple all by myself, sitting in the grass behind the temple, and opening my mission call to Lisbon, Portugal.

I'm a pretty nostalgic guy to begin with, so I thoroughly enjoy pulling out photos, putting on some Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation or They Might Be Giant's Flood and meandering through memories of a truly wonderful time in my life. So if any of you who were there would like to join me, I'll be … right here … waiting … for you.